Though I have not yet finished posting about all the places I visited in Portland last month, I wanted to share the list of my top favourites from Portland, Oregon this past year in no particular order:
1. Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings – Pok Pok, Portland, OR
When I think of noshing in Portland, these spicy Vietnamese Fish Sauce chicken wings from Pok Pok are the first thing that comes to mind. These fresh chicken wings are first marinated in fish sauce and palm sugar, deep fried, and then tossed in a caramelized Phu Quco fish sauce with garlic. They are served along with a Vietnamese table salad that contains picked carrots and daikon. They are not like anything I’ve tasted before. The meat is juicy and succulent while the skin is crispy and coated with such intense flavours from the fish sauce, chilies, garlic, and palm sugar.
2. Pork Belly Cubano – Bunk Sandwiches, Portland, OR
I can still remember the first bite of this Pork Belly Cubano sandwich on my first ever visit to Bunk Sandwiches. It was like no other sandwich I’ve ever tasted before. I loved how all the flavours harmoniously interacted with each other – the savouriness of the melt-in-your-mouth roasted pork belly, the saltiness of the ham, the tartness of the pickles, the tanginess of the mustard as well as the gooeyness of the melted swiss cheese. Even the pressed bread was of the perfect crispy texture.
3. Sicilian Hash – Arleta Library Bakery Cafe, Portland, OR
This is the signature dish at Arleta Library Bakery Cafe. The hash is made from Painted Hills natural beef that has been braised overnight and is then sautéed with peppers, onions, and potatoes. The hash is served with a parmesan scrambled egg on top. I love that the braised beef was so flavourful and melt-in-your-mouth tender. The parmesan scrambled egg was perfectly fluffy and light.
4. Apizza Margherita and Tartufo Bianco – Apizza Scholls, Portland, OR
Apizza Scholls has one of my all time favourite places for thin crust pizza. I’ve visited Apizza Scholls several times now and tried a variety of their pies. The Apizza Margherita and Tartufo Bianco are by far my favourite. Because the pies only come in one size – 18 inches, we like to do a half-half split with the Apizza Margherita and Tartufo Bianco as we find the flavours from these two contrast each other perfectly. The Apizza Margherita is topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella (whole milk & fresh), pecorino romano/grana padano, fresh garlic, extra virgin olive oil and fresh basil while the Tartufo Bianco is topped with mozzarella (whole milk & fresh), pecorino romano/grana padano along with Truffle Oil and sea salt. The crust at Apizza Scholls is always perfectly crispy and chewy.
5. Chicken and Rice – Nong’s Khao Man Gai, Portland, OR
I’ve had Hainanese Chicken and Rice many times before. The Chicken and Rice dish at Nong’s Khao Man Gai food cart is basically the Thai version of Hainanese Chicken and Rice. The boneless chicken pieces were very tender, silky, and flavourful while the rice was cooked to perfection. My favourite part of the dish was the accompanying special soybean sauce made from fermented soybean puree mixed with garlic, ginger, Thai chilies, vinegar, and sugar. It provided the perfect sweet, sour, salty, and spicy combination that unified all the components of the dish and provided an additional depth of flavour to the chicken and rice.
6. Kalbi Short Rib Taco – Koi Fusion, Tigard, OR
This was my first time having Korean-Mexican fusion so I wasn’t sure what to expect. To my surprise, it works amazingly well. I had this taco at the Koi Fusion kiosk and it came with a choice of meat or tofu. I chose the Kalbi Short Ribs. The flavourful boneless kalbi short rib pieces were served on a soft corn tortilla and topped with cabbage slaw, pico de gallo, cucumber spears, crispy bean sprouts, cilantro, and hot sauce. It was the perfect combination of flavours and textures. The marinated kalbi short rib pieces were very tender and flavourful and were perfectly contrasted with the crunchy, fresh toppings. Every bite was like a flavour explosion in my mouth.
7. Coconut Lemon Saffron Sorbetto – Fifty Licks, Portland, OR
This Coconut Lemon Saffron Sorbet is one of the most unique and complex tasting sorbets I’ve ever had and all the flavours really worked well together. The sorbet is made from a blend of coconut milk and lemon juice and is infused with saffron, lemon zest, cardamom, and star anise. The sorbet was not as tart as I had anticipated as the tartness was tempered by the coconut milk. I could taste a bit of the cardamom and star anise although both were quite mild. There were flecks of lemon zest and threads of saffron interspersed all throughout.
8. Moroccan Chicken Hash – Tasty n Sons, Portland, OR
At Tasty n Sons, a sister restaurant to the infamous Toro Bravo, the Moroccan Chicken Hash with harissa cream & over easy egg has been one of my favourite brunch dishes. The hash was a mix of roasted potatoes and vegetables such as squash, green beans, red peppers, cauliflower, brussel sprouts as well as briny green olives and tender chicken pieces. The spicy harissa cream and runny yolk from the over easy egg help to provide a silky coating to the hash and meld all the flavours together. I thought this was a very unique spin on traditional breakfast fare.
3226 SE Division St
Bunk Sandwiches (Original Location)
621 SE Morrison St
Arleta Library Bakery Cafe
5513 SE 72nd Avenue
4741 SE Hawthorne Boulevard
Tasty n Sons
3808 N Williams Ave